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US nuke waste repository in New Mexico will get more space

Workers are expected to begin mining operations at the U.S. nuclear waste dump in New Mexico for the first time in three years following a radiation release that contaminated part of the underground repository, the Energy Department said Tuesday.

The work to carve out more disposal space from the ancient salt formation where the repository is located will begin later this fall and should be completed by 2020, the department said in a statement.

Workers will remove more than 112,000 tons (101,605 metric tons) of salt, making way for seven disposal rooms. Each will have space for more than 10,000 drums containing up to 55 gallons (208 liters) of waste.

The repository, named the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, began accepting shipments of radioactive waste from defense sites and national laboratories earlier this year after being closed for nearly three years.

It’s working to catch up with the nation’s multibillion-dollar program for cleaning up tons of waste left behind by decades of bomb-making and nuclear research. The waste includes radioactive tools, gloves, clothing and other debris.

The pace of shipments is increasing slowly, but federal auditors recently raised concerns that the repository could run out of space. The U.S. Government Accountability Office also found that the Energy Department has no plans for securing regulatory approvals and expanding the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant before it reaches capacity in less than a decade.

Mining for the new disposal area first began in 2013 but was halted after the radiation release in February 2014.

A chemical reaction inside a barrel of waste that was inappropriately packed at Los Alamos National Laboratory before being shipped to the southern New Mexico repository was blamed for the radiation release.

Twenty-two workers at the repository were exposed, and monitors at the surface recorded low levels of radiological contamination. Officials maintained that nearby communities were not at risk.

The incident resulted in a $74 million settlement with the state of New Mexico for numerous permit violations at both the lab and the repository. Investigators said the misstep could have been avoided if existing policies and procedures had been followed.

The settlement, signed in early 2016, was at the time the largest ever negotiated between a state and the Energy Department.

Since then, some areas of the repository have remained off-limits, making it impossible for crews to do maintenance to prevent its ever-shifting salt ceilings and walls from collapsing.

In one area, monitors last month picked up on increased movement, indicating some instability. A rock fall last November forced a brief evacuation of workers but there were no injuries or contamination.

As the mining work resumes, officials said crews will install rock bolts to provide stability inside the new disposal vault.

A machine called a continuous miner removes the salt. It’s loaded into a large truck and then a hoist that carries the material nearly a half-mile (0.8 kilometers) to the surface.

Article source: http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory/us-nuke-waste-repository-mexico-space-50541795

US regulators approve 2nd gene therapy for blood cancer

U.S. regulators on Wednesday approved a second gene therapy for a blood cancer, a one-time, custom-made treatment for aggressive lymphoma in adults.

The Food and Drug Administration allowed sales of the treatment from Kite Pharma. It uses the same technology, called CAR-T, as the first gene therapy approved in the U.S. in August, a treatment for childhood leukemia from Novartis Pharmaceuticals.

“In just several decades, gene therapy has gone from being a promising concept to a practical solution to deadly and largely untreatable forms of cancer,” FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said in a statement.

The treatment, called Yescarta, will cost $373,000 per patient, according to drugmaker Gilead Sciences. Kite became a subsidiary of Foster City, California-based Gilead this month.

CAR-T treatment uses gene therapy techniques not to fix disease-causing genes but to turbocharge T cells, immune system soldiers that cancer can often evade. The T cells are filtered from a patient’s blood, reprogrammed to target and kill cancer cells, and then hundreds of millions of copies are grown.

Returned to the patient, all the revved-up cells can continue multiplying to fight disease for months or years. That’s why these immunotherapy treatments are called “living drugs.”

“Today’s approval of Yescarta is a very significant advance for lymphoma patients and for the cancer community as a whole,” Louis J. DeGennaro, president of the Leukemia Lymphoma Society, said in a statement. “Immunotherapy is dramatically changing the way we approach blood cancer treatment.”

Kite’s therapy is for patients with three types of aggressive, or fast-growing, large B-cell lymphoma. The most common one accounts for about a third of the estimated 72,000 new cases of non-Hodgkin lymphoma diagnosed each year.

Yescarta, also known as axicabtagene ciloleucel, was approved for patients who have already been treated with at least two cancer drugs that either didn’t work for them or eventually stopped working.

At that point, patients are generally out of options and only have about a 10 percent chance of even temporary remission of their cancer, said Dr. Frederick Locke, director of research for the Immune Cell Therapy Program at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida. Locke helped run patient tests of Yescarta.

“This is really an exciting advance for patients without hope,” Locke said.

Yescarta is not a benign treatment, though: Three people died after getting the treatment, which can cause serious side effects. The FDA is requiring Kite to do a long-term safety study and train hospitals to quickly spot and handle those reactions.

In the key test, Yescarta was given to 101 patients. About 72 percent saw their cancer shrink and about half showed no sign of disease eight months later.

While it is billed as a one-time treatment, because the patients’ cancer is so far advanced, it returns in some. The therapy is still working in most study participants, so the average duration of its effects isn’t known yet.

A different type of gene therapy is waiting in the wings at the FDA. Spark Therapeutics’ treatment for a rare form of blindness could be approved within months. It aims to improve vision by replacing a defective gene needed to process light.

Other gene therapies for blood cancers are being tested and scientists think they may work for solid tumors within several years.

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Follow Linda A. Johnson at https://twitter.com/LindaJ—onPharma

Article source: http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory/us-regulators-approve-2nd-gene-therapy-blood-cancer-50575153

Archaeologists find part of 4,000-year-old statue in Egypt

Egypt says archaeologists have discovered the head of a wooden statue, likely belonging to a female regent who ruled the country more than 4,000 years ago.

Wednesday’s statement by the Antiquities Ministry says the artifact was found in the district of Saqqara, near the ancient Pyramids of Giza. It says the part of the statue is in poor condition and will have to undergo restoration

The uncovered head is believed to depict Ankhesenpepi II, the mother of King Pepi II of the 6th dynasty who ascended to the throne at the age of six. She ruled Egypt as regent during the early years of his reign.

Earlier in October, archaeologists at the same dig uncovered part of an obelisk made of pink granite that belongs to the same dynasty.

Article source: http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory/egypt-archaeologists-find-part-4000-year-statue-50553964

Parts of unmanned Russian spaceship burn up over Dubai

Parts of an unmanned Russian cargo spaceship burned across the night sky of the Arabian Peninsula, drawing gasps from Dubai to Riyadh before breaking up in the Earth’s atmosphere and scattering in the Indian Ocean.

The fiery end Monday night to parts of Progress MS-07 came as planned after it delivered 2.5 metric tons (2.75 tons) of water, food and scientific equipment to the astronauts aboard the International Space Station.

But its 80-second appearance in the skies of the United Arab Emirates stunned onlookers in a region where Iran regularly test-fires ballistic missiles and Shiite rebels in Yemen have threatened to use them against Abu Dhabi. Even a day later, government officials still hadn’t corrected their earlier statements identifying the object as a meteor.

The disposable spacecraft blasted off Saturday from the Russian-leased Baikonur launch complex in Kazakhstan. Its rockets and stages earlier fell harmlessly and largely unnoticed into the atmosphere, said Hasan Ahmad al-Hariri, the CEO of the Dubai Astronomy Group.

Parts of the ship could be seen re-entering the atmosphere from 7:35 p.m. (1535 GMT) Monday, al-Hariri said. It streaked across the Dubai skyline behind the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, drawing both stunned and anxious reaction from those watching.

“It was quite visible for the public,” al-Hariri told The Associated Press. “It’s not something you see every day. It was beautiful to see that thing up in the sky, disintegrating into pieces.”

Soon, “people were banging me with calls,” he said.

The governmental Dubai Media Office, citing the sheikhdom’s Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center, quickly described the aerial display a “meteorite.” The UAE’s General Civil Aviation Authority said in a statement that “the meteor was a natural and regular phenomenon at this time of the year.”

But it wasn’t a meteor. Al-Hariri said it was a 6.5-meter (21.3-foot)-long “module” from the launch breaking up some 140 kilometers (87 miles) in the sky.

NASA told the AP on Tuesday night that the spaceship’s cargo made it to the International Space Station early Monday morning. U.S. Strategic Command, which oversees America’s nuclear and missile arsenal, told the AP the object over Dubai was the ship’s SL-4 rocket body.

“It re-entered the atmosphere Oct. 16, 2017, over the Persian Gulf at approximately 1530″ GMT, said U.S. Air Force Maj. Brian L. Maguire.

The Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center, which hopes to launch a probe to Mars in 2020, did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.

The UAE announced in February it wanted to build the first city on Mars by 2117.

For al-Hariri, whose semi-governmental organization hopes to soon open its Al Thuraya Astronomy Center along the flight path of the Dubai International Airport, the incident Monday night shows the importance of educating the public about the wonders of space. He noted that despite the UAE’s rapid development, its empty deserts offer beautiful viewing of the stars at night, including glimpses of the Milky Way.

“It was something that was really worth to look at,” he said. “It was beautiful to see.”

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Follow Jon Gambrell on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jongambrellap. His work can be found at http://apne.ws/2galNpz.

Article source: http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory/light-sky-uae-russian-rocket-breaking-50525873

What cosmic crash confirmed: Einstein was as good as gold

When two extremely dense neutron stars crashed together in a distant galaxy, astronomers struck scientific gold, confirming previously unproven theories, including some from Albert Einstein.

Scientists announced Monday that after picking up two faint signals in mid-August, they were able to find the location of the long-ago crash and see the end of it play out. Measurements of the light and other energy that the crash produced helped them answer some cosmic questions.

GRAVITATIONAL WAVES

Scientists, starting with Einstein, figured that when two neutron stars collide they would produce a gravitational wave, a ripple in the universe-wide fabric of space-time. Four other times that these waves were detected they were the result of merging black holes. This is the first time scientists observed one caused by a neutron star crash.

WHERE GOLD COMES FROM

The Big Bang created light elements like hydrogen and helium. Supernovas created medium elements, up to iron. But what about the heavier ones like gold, platinum and uranium? Astronomers thought they came from two neutron stars colliding, and when they saw this crash they confirmed it. One astronomer described as a “giant train wreck that creates gold.” They estimate that this one event generated an amount of gold and platinum that outweighs the entire Earth by a factor of 10.

GAMMA RAYS

Gamma ray bursts are some of the most energetic and deadly pulses of radiation in the universe. Astronomers weren’t quite sure where short gamma ray bursts came from, but figured that a crash of neutron stars was a good bet. Watching this event confirmed the theory.

EXPANDING UNIVERSE

Astronomers know the universe is expanding, and they use a figure called the Hubble Constant to describe how fast. Two different ways scientists have of measuring this speed of expansion yields two numbers that are somewhat close to each other, but not quite the same. By measuring how far the gravitational wave had to travel, astronomers came up with another estimate that was between the earlier two, but it also comes with a large margin of error.

HOW FAST DO RAYS AND WAVES GO?

The crash showed that gravitational waves and gamma rays travel at nearly the speed of light — which is what Einstein’s General Relativity theory says. NASA astrophysicist Julie McEnery said: “Yet again, Einstein passes another test.”

Article source: http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory/cosmic-crash-confirmed-einstein-good-gold-50518929

The Latest: Tibetan group protests at China Embassy in India

The Latest on the ruling Communist Party’s congress meeting in Beijing (all times local):

3 p.m.

Members of the Tibetan Youth Congress have protested at the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi as China’s ruling Communists opened their national congress.

The protesters held up placards blaming China for occupation and genocide in Tibet. Indian police blocked the nearly two dozen protesters from entering the building.

Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to get a second five-year term as party leader at the meeting that opened in Beijing on Wednesday.

The protesters called Xi a dictator whose continued rule would be dangerous.

Tibetan Youth Congress President Tenzing Jigme said in a statement that Tibet had nothing to celebrate as Buddhist monasteries have been destroyed and young Tibetans have self-immolated in frustration.

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1:30 p.m.

President Xi Jinping says China “has the resolve, the confidence and the ability” to defeat any Taiwanese bid for formal independence.

He said Beijing would continue to pursue peaceful means to bring under control the self-governing island but that China would never allow the permanent separation of “any part” of China.

Xi spoke at the opening of the Communist Party’s national congress on Wednesday.

Taiwan was a Japanese colony for 50 years, then split from the mainland amid civil war in 1949. China cut off contacts with Taiwan’s government last year to punish its independence-leaning president for refusing to endorse Beijing’s position that Taiwan is a part of Chinese territory.

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11:20 a.m.

President Xi Jinping has called for China’s ruling Communist Party to step up technology development, an area in which Beijing faces complaints it encourages theft of foreign know-how and blocks access to emerging industries.

Xi gave the keynote address at the opening of the party congress Wednesday. He called for making China a “country of innovators” and to create competitors in aerospace, cyberspace, transportation and other areas. Xi promised to promote cooperation among universities, state companies and small enterprises.

China’s technology development has prompted complaints by foreign governments and companies that Beijing encourages theft of foreign intellectual property. President Donald Trump has ordered an investigation into whether China improperly requires companies to hand over technology as a condition of market access.

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10 a.m.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has told a key Communist Party congress that the nation’s prospects are bright but the challenges are severe.

Such warnings have been made by others as China’s economy faces pressure from weak global demand that threatens the nation’s export industries.

But Xi’s comments Wednesday in a keynote speech meant to highlight the party’s confidence and long-range vision are an unusual acknowledgement of challenging times ahead.

Xi is expected to get a second five-year term as party leader at the gathering.

Article source: http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory/latest-xi-calls-china-step-tech-development-50550879

US tech giants may find their future shaped by Europe

Silicon Valley is a uniquely American creation, the product of an entrepreneurial spirit and no-holds-barred capitalism that now drives many aspects of modern life.

But the likes of Facebook, Google and Apple are increasingly facing an uncomfortable truth: it is Europe’s culture of tougher oversight of companies, not America’s laissez-faire attitude, which could soon rule their industry as governments seek to combat fake news and prevent extremists from using the internet to fan the flames of hatred.

While the U.S. has largely relied on market forces to regulate content in a country where free speech is revered, European officials have shown they are willing to act. Germany recently passed a law imposing fines of up to 50 million euros ($59 million) on websites that don’t remove hate speech within 24 hours. British Prime Minister Theresa May wants companies to take down extremist material within two hours. And across the EU, Google has for years been obliged to remove search results if there is a legitimate complaint about the content’s veracity or relevance.

“I anticipate the EU will be where many of these issues get played out,” said Sarah T. Roberts, a professor of information studies at UCLA who has studied efforts to monitor and vet internet content. Objectionable content “is the biggest problem going forward. It’s no longer acceptable for the firms to say that they can’t do anything about it.”

How closely to manage the massive amounts of content on the internet has become a pressing question in the U.S. since it was revealed that Russian agencies took out thousands of ads on social media during the presidential campaign, reaching some 10 million people on Facebook alone.

That comes on top of the existing concerns about preventing extremist attacks. This month, three men were arrested after allegedly using smartphone messaging apps to plot attacks on the New York City subway and Times Square from their homes in Canada, Pakistan and the Philippines. The plot was thwarted by an undercover officer, not technology.

In some ways it goes to a question of identity. Social media companies see themselves not as publishers but as platforms for other people to share information, and have traditionally been cautious about taking down material.

But the pressure is on to act. Facebook, Google, Twitter and YouTube in June created the Global Internet Forum to Combat Terrorism, which says it is committed to developing new content detection technology, helping smaller companies combat extremism and promoting “counter-speech,” content meant to blunt the impact of extremist material.

Proponents of counter-speech argue that rather than trying to take down every Islamic State group post, internet companies and governments should do more to promote content that actively refutes extremist propaganda. This approach will unmask the extremist message of hate and violence in the “marketplace of ideas,” they argue, though critics see it as just another form of propaganda.

Facebook has recently published details of its counterterrorism strategy for the first time. These include using artificial intelligence to prevent extremist images and videos from being uploaded and algorithms to find and disable accounts linked to pages known to support extremist movements. The company also plans to increase the staff dedicated to reviewing complaints of objectionable material by more than 60 percent to some 8,000 worldwide.

“We want Facebook to be a hostile place for terrorists,” Monika Bickert, director of global policy management, and Brian Fishman, counterterrorism policy manager, said in a statement. “The challenge for online communities is the same as it is for real world communities – to get better at spotting the early signals before it’s too late.”

But Roberts argues the companies have been slow to react and are trying to play catch up.

The fact is the technology needed to detect and remove dangerous posts hasn’t kept up with the threat, experts say. Removing such material still requires judgment, and artificial intelligence is not yet good enough to determine the difference, for example, between an article about the so-called Islamic State and posts from the group itself.

In other words, taking down much of this material still needs human input, said Frank Pasquale, an expert in information law and changing technology at the University of Maryland. Acknowledging that is difficult for companies that were built by pushing the boundaries of technology.

“They don’t like to admit how primitive their technologies are; it defeats their whole narrative that they can save the world,” Pasquale said. “You kill off the golden goose if you cast doubt over the power of their algorithms.”

Employing enough people to fill in where the algorithms leave off would be a massive task given the volume of material posted on social media sites every day. Just imagine trying to moderate every puppy photo or birthday greeting, said Siva Vaidhyanathan, director of the Center for Media and Citizenship at the University of Virginia.

He believes that moderating content is ultimately impossible because you can’t create a system that works for everyone from Saudi Arabia to Sweden.

“The problem is the very idea of the social media system — it is ungovernable,” he said. “Facebook is designed as if we are nice to each other. And we’re not.”

The U.S. government response has been more focused on policing than regulation, with security services authorized to sweep up huge amounts of electronic data to help them identify violent extremists and thwart attacks. Beyond that, authorities have mostly relied on the market to drive change amid fears that heavy-handed regulation could interfere with the First Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens to speak out and exchange information.

European courts have had no such qualms, balancing freedom of expression against the right to privacy and community cohesion.

For example, the European Court of Justice in 2014 ruled that people have the “right to be forgotten,” permitting them to demand removal of personal data from search results when they can prove there’s no compelling reason for it to remain. As far back as 2000, a French court ordered Yahoo to prevent French internet users from buying Nazi memorabilia on its sites.

The European Union’s executive has been most active in matters of antitrust. This year it leveled a huge 2.4 billion euro ($2.8 billion) fine on Google and ordered it to change the way it does business, for example how it shows search results.

“There’s a real cultural divide,” said Edward Tenner, author of the upcoming book “The Efficiency Paradox: What Big Data Can’t Do.” ”European governments have been more committed to incorporating the ideas of social justice and the Americans have been much more on the libertarian side.”

Article source: http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory/us-tech-giants-find-future-shaped-europe-50526455

Greenpeace faults many tech giants for environment impact

The environmental group Greenpeace issued a report on Tuesday giving technology titans including Samsung Electronics, Amazon and Huawei low marks for their environmental impact.

Many of the biggest technology companies failed to deliver on commitments to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and are still reluctant to commit fully to renewable energy, according to Greenpeace USA’s Guide to Greener Electronics. The report, which assessed 17 top global tech companies in three areas, also faulted many of them for failing to use more recycled materials in their products and slow progress in phasing out use of toxic materials.

“Tech companies claim to be at the forefront of innovation, but their supply chains are stuck in the Industrial Age,” Gary Cook, a campaigner at Greenpeace USA, said in a statement.

The report details the hidden cost behind what may be the most sought-after and celebrated consumer products in the 21st century: mobile computing devices like smartphones and tablet computers.

Since 2011, Greenpeace has urged global tech companies to transition to renewable energy, prompting some of them to switch to environmentally friendly power sources for their data centers. The group is urging the industry to tackle energy issues in manufacturing and supply chains, design longer-lasting products to reduce electronics waste and urging an overall rethink of its “take-make-waste” business model.

The report highlighted that tech companies’ manufacturing processes are not as environmentally friendly as their innovative images might suggest.

While the energy consumption in the tech industry rose rapidly to fuel the supply chains and the manufacturing of these products as well as the data centers where social media, cloud computing and other applications run, so have the greenhouse gas emissions.

Samsung Electronics received a grade of D in its use of renewable energy, which accounted for just 1 percent of its manufacturing process, compared with Apple, which relied on renewable energy for 96 percent of its operation. Samsung, the world’s largest maker of smartphones and key component suppliers of many of the tech companies featured in the report, saw its greenhouse gas emissions rise 24 percent in 2016 from two years ago. It also received low marks on its efforts to reduce and disclose hazardous chemicals at workplaces and to design long-lasting products.

Samsung Electronics and other companies mentioned in the report did not immediately respond to emails seeking comment.

Chinese smartphone makers Huawei, Xiaomi, Oppo and Vivo have gained a significant share of the market in the last few years. They scored below average in all categories and lacked transparency and commitment in renewable energy, the report said.

Amazon was the only U.S. company that received the lowest mark, an F, in its overall environmental performance, along with the Chinese phone makers. Greenpeace said Amazon was among the least transparent companies and did not report the greenhouse gas footprint of its own operations.

Among the 17 companies, Amsterdam-based Fairphone and Apple were said to be doing better in various areas.

Greenpeace urged the companies to use more renewable energy, switching energy sources that power their supply chains. It also urged the tech companies to remove hazardous chemicals and other materials from their products and workplaces and design longer-lasting devices to help reduce waste.

If the tech industry does not change to renewable energy, the world won’t be able to tackle climate change, said Greenpeace campaigner Lee Insung.

“In the next three to five years, the use of renewable energy and how well the companies cope with climate change will determine their core competitiveness,” Lee said.

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The report: www.greenpeace.org/greenerguide

Article source: http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory/greenpeace-faults-tech-giants-environment-impact-50524718

Scientists witness huge cosmic crash, find origins of gold

It was a faint signal, but it told of one of the most violent acts in the universe, and it would soon reveal secrets of the cosmos, including how gold was created.

Astronomers around the world reacted to the signal quickly, focusing telescopes located on every continent and even in orbit to a distant spot in the sky.

What they witnessed in mid-August and revealed Monday was the long-ago collision of two neutron stars — a phenomenon California Institute of Technology’s David H. Reitze called “the most spectacular fireworks in the universe.”

“When these things collide, all hell breaks loose,” he said.

Measurements of the light and other energy emanating from the crash have helped scientists explain how planet-killing gamma ray bursts are born, how fast the universe is expanding, and where heavy elements like platinum and gold come from.

“This is getting everything you wish for,” said Syracuse University physics professor Duncan Brown, one of more than 4,000 scientists involved in the blitz of science that the crash kicked off. “This is our fantasy observation.”

It started in a galaxy called NGC 4993, seen from Earth in the Hydra constellation. Two neutron stars, collapsed cores of stars so dense that a teaspoon of their matter would weigh 1 billion tons, danced ever faster and closer together until they collided, said Carnegie Institution astronomer Maria Drout.

The crash, called a kilonova, generated a fierce burst of gamma rays and a gravitational wave, a faint ripple in the fabric of space and time, first theorized by Albert Einstein.

“This is like a cosmic atom smasher at a scale far beyond humans would be capable of building,” said Andy Howell, a staff scientist at the Las Cumbres Observatory. “We finally now know what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object and it’s a kilonova.”

The crash happened 130 million years ago, while dinosaurs still roamed on Earth, but the signal didn’t arrive on Earth until Aug. 17 after traveling 130 million light-years. A light-year is 5.88 trillion miles.

Signals were picked up within 1.7 seconds of each other, by NASA’s Fermi telescope, which detects gamma rays, and gravity wave detectors in Louisiana and Washington state that are a part of the LIGO Laboratory , whose founders won a Nobel Prize earlier this month. A worldwide alert went out to focus telescopes on what became the most well-observed astronomical event in history.

Before August, the only other gravity waves detected by LIGO were generated by colliding black holes. But black holes let no light escape, so astronomers could see nothing.

This time there was plenty to see, measure and analyze: matter, light, and other radiation. The Hubble Space Telescope even got a snapshot of the afterglow.

Finding where the crash happened wasn’t easy. Eventually scientists narrowed the location down to 100 galaxies, began a closer search of those, and found it in the ninth galaxy they looked at.

It is like “the classic challenge of finding a needle in the haystack with the added challenge that the needle is fading away and the haystack is moving,” said Marcelle Soares-Santos, an astrophysicist at Brandeis University.

“The completeness of this picture from the beginning to the end is unprecedented,” said Columbia University physics professor Szabolcs Marka. “There are many, many extraordinary discoveries within the discovery.”

The colliding stars spewed bright blue, super-hot debris that was dense and unstable. Some of it coalesced into heavy elements, like gold, platinum and uranium. Scientists had suspected neutron star collisions had enough power to create heavier elements, but weren’t certain until they witnessed it.

“We see the gold being formed,” said Syracuse’s Brown.

Calculations from a telescope measuring ultraviolet light showed that the combined mass of the heavy elements from this explosion is 1,300 times the mass of Earth. And all that stuff — including lighter elements — was thrown out in all different directions and is now speeding across the universe.

Perhaps one day the material will clump together into planets the way ours was formed, Reitze said — maybe ones with rich veins of precious metals.

“We already knew that iron came from a stellar explosion, the calcium in your bones came from stars and now we know the gold in your wedding ring came from merging neutron stars,” said University of California Santa Cruz’s Ryan Foley.

The crash also helped explain the origins of one of the most dangerous forces of the cosmos — short gamma ray bursts, focused beams of radiation that could erase life on any planet that happened to get in the way. These bursts shoot out in two different directions perpendicular to where the two neutron stars first crash, Reitze said.

Luckily for us, the beams of gamma rays were not focused on Earth and were generated too far away to be a threat, he said.

Scientists knew that the universe has been expanding since the Big Bang. By using LIGO to measure gravitational waves while watching this event unfold, researchers came up with a new estimate for how fast that is happening, the so-called Hubble Constant. Before this, scientists came up with two slightly different answers using different techniques. The rough figure that came out of this event is between the original two, Reitze said.

The first optical images showed a bright blue dot that was very hot, which was likely the start of the heavy element creation process amid the neutron star debris, Drout said. After a day or two that blue faded, becoming much fainter and redder. And after three weeks it was completely gone, she said.

This almost didn’t happen. Eight days after the signal came through, the LIGO gravitational waves were shut down for a year’s worth of planned upgrades. A month later the whole area where the crash happened would have been blocked from astronomers’ prying eyes by the sun.

Scientists involved with the search for gravitational waves said this was the event they had prepared for over more than 20 years.

The findings are “of spectacular importance,” said Penn State physicist Abhay Ashtekar, who wasn’t part of the research. “This is really brand new.”

Almost all of the discoveries confirmed existing theories, but had not been proven — an encouraging result for theorists who have been trying to explain what is happening in the cosmos, said France Cordova, an astrophysicist who directs the National Science Foundation.

“We so far have been unable to prove Einstein wrong,” said Georgia Tech physics professor Laura Cadonati. “But we’re going to keep trying.”

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Follow Seth Borenstein on Twitter at @borenbears . His work can be found here .

Article source: http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory/scientists-witness-huge-cosmic-crash-find-origins-gold-50509163

Head of Samsung’s booming semiconductor business to resign

The chairman of Samsung Electronics Co.’s board of directors, who has been the public face of the company after its de facto chief was jailed on corruption charges, said Friday he will resign next year to make way for a new leader.

“As we are confronted with unprecedented crisis inside out, I believe that time has now come for the company to start anew, with a new spirit and young leadership to better respond to challenges arising in the rapidly changing IT industry,” Kwon Oh-hyun, 65, said in a letter to employees.

Kwon plans to resign as head of Samsung’s semiconductor and component business and will not seek re-election on the company’s board when his term expires in March, Samsung said in a statement.

He has represented Samsung Electronics at various occasions since the company’s heir and vice chairman, Lee Jae-yong, 49, was jailed earlier this year. Lee was convicted on corruption charges to five years in prison in August, along with four other former Samsung executives.

Samsung has two other CEOs, each overseeing its mobile phone business and home appliance division.

But the chip and display divisions led by Kwon fueled Samsung’s stunning profit growth this year.

Earlier Friday, Samsung said its July-September operating profit nearly tripled over a year earlier to a new record, putting it on track to report its best annual financial results. Analysts forecast Samsung’s 2017 net income nearly doubled from 2016 and they expect Samsung to outdo its annual financial results for the next few years, thanks to its position as the world’s largest maker of the semiconductor group known as memory chips that are used for mobile devices and computer servers.

Kwon, however, thinks Samsung is in crisis and urgently needs to find new ways to fuel growth before the record-breaking performance resulting from earlier decisions fades.

“Now, the company needs a new leader more than ever and it is time for me to move to the next chapter of my life,” Kwon said.

In its earnings preview, Samsung put its July-September operating profit at 14.5 trillion won ($12.8 billion), compared with 5.2 trillion won ($4.6 billion) a year earlier. Sales jumped 30 percent to 62 trillion won ($54.7 billion).

Prices of memory chips have skyrocketed globally due to the growing use of social media, mobile data, cloud computing and the emerging internet of things, which have combined to leave supplies tight. The boom allowed Samsung to dethrone Intel Corp., the long-time global chip leader, in the second quarter and has yielded record earnings for smaller chip rivals such as SK Hynix.

Kwon’s resignation could widen a leadership vacuum at Samsung.

The company has a league of executives who manage day-to-day operations, but has usually relied on the leadership and the visions of founding family members for direction.

Kwon is chairman of Samsung’s board, but not its overall chairman. That is Lee Kun-hee, son of the company’s founder and Lee Jae-yong’s father. The younger Lee has sought to fill his father’s place as the company’s since Lee Kun-hee was hospitalized in 2014.

Lee is appealing a five-year prison sentence for crimes related to a sweeping corruption scandal that toppled South Korea’s president. Hearings on his appeal and those of four other convicted Samsung executives began Thursday.

Article source: http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory/samsung-predicts-record-high-quarterly-profit-50450945